Report by Daniel Mortlock:
Last year's Remnants vs. Academicals fixture was an extraordinary run-fest, in which 265 runs had come from just 144 balls (i.e., a scoring rate of more than 11 an over) before heavy rain proved an even more irresistable force than the two teams' batsmen. The stand-out innings were Ferdi Rex's 116* off 51 balls for us and Oli Melville's 41 off 19 balls for the Academicals. Both Ferdi and Oli were present at the ground today and with the pitch hard and the sun out it was easy to see them both picking up where they left off 53 weeks ago. Which would have been great, but for the fact that they were both turning out for the Academicals tonight. Even worse, the Academicals' batting line-up was so strong that neither could command an opening spot, with Remnants occasionals Cam Petrie and James McNamara both listed ahead of Ferdi and Oli. Or, in other words, we - or, really, our bowlers - were in trouble.
Still, in the spirit of Apollo 13 we had to "work the problem". The first task was to win the toss so that we could bowl first - it's hard enough taking on the cricketing equivalent of the Death Star, but it's even more difficult if it's got something to aim at. Next step was to exploit the fact that we had eight bowlers who, between them, offered pretty much every style available: fast-medium off the wrong foot; seam-up; leg-spin; flighted lobs; left-arm orthodox; off spin; medium-paced drifters; round the wicket darts. And, sure enough, we drew on all these options, with eight bowlers being called on for a total of ten separate spells. Still, for all that, it was the orthodox option of giving our fastest bowlers the new ball that was successful initially, Adam Long (2/18) and Daniel Mortlock (1/22) keeping the total to 18/1 off the first 5 (six-ball) overs of the innings. We then made the perfect change at one end, Saurav Dutta sending conceding just 7 runs from his 3 overs; but took a bit longer to find the right option at the other, the eventual solution being Paul Jordan (1/17), whose outswingers repeatedly beat the set batsman as well as yielding his 298th Remnants wicket (courtesy of a nice stumping by Matt Samson). It was around this point that we looked up to see the rather strange twenty/20 score of 75/1 off 13 overs: we obviously hadn't been very penetrative, but more important was that the opposition were still under a run a ball with most of their innings gone.
But that all changed when Ferdi sprinted out to the crease after the above stumping, eager to smash some big boundaries . . . which is exactly what he did, albeit courtesy of some huge slices of luck. It felt most unfair that his mis-hits landed where there were no fielders, but we only had ourselves to blame when the (same) boundary fielder twice ran in too far and committed the cardinal sin of having the ball go over his head but land inside the boundary. (If you're in position to take a boundary catch and aren't sure of how far the ball's going to carry, it's a far better bet to hold your ground - it's comparatively easy to run forward a few yards, but nigh on impossible to go backwards more than a foot or two.) We did finally dismiss Ferdi off the last ball of the innings, when Paul held a nice catch at short third-man, but by that stage he'd hit 43 off just 20 balls and helped the Academicals more than double their total in the last third of their innings. A target of 160 (i.e. 8 an over) was at least 20 more than we'd have liked.
Our pursuit started steadily (as opposed to the hoped-for explosively) as James Crozier (15 off 17 balls) and Matt Samson (10* off 14 balls at this stage) played out 22 dot balls in the first 6 overs before James got bowled off his pads. Saurav Dutta then injected the necessary X-factor, playing with sufficient abandaon to allow Matt to complete his "playing in" process, which officially ended after he'd faced 25 balls (which had yielded 20 runs). With suitably passionate screaming to "push two, push two!" from the pavilion, Matt and Saurav tooks us 138/1 with one ball remaining in the 17th over, after which Saurav was unlucky to be caught (for 30 off 33 balls) off what most of us felt should have been called as a waist-high no ball. Still, with 22 needed off 3 overs, the main thing was that the set batsman was still in, and Matt then combined dismissive boundary hitting and clever running to the degree that the new batsman, Adam Long, only got to face 4 balls. We take up the action with one over remaining:
Remnants would have liked more than 5 runs from the penultimate over (delivered by Ferdi Rex, 0/22) but with just 7 needed from 6 balls and Samson on strike they are surely favourites. The game isn't the only thing up for grabs, though: Samson is on 92* from 60 balls and so in the box seat to complete what would be a fantastic century.
A great match that went all the way down to the last over . . . although it would be no surprise if the bowlers of both sides go on strike and refuse to take part in any future Remnants vs. Academicals fixtures, given that the last two have seen 585 runs scored from 381 balls for the loss of just 8 wickets. Still, the one compensation is jugs aplenty, and even stats puzzles: Dave noticed that both teams compiled century partnerships this evening, clearly a rare occurence . . . but how rare? (A reasonable answer is that, since Remnants compiles such unions at the rate of about one every ten games, it's a 1 in 100 occurence for both teams to do so, so it'd happen once every three four seasons.)